Who Are the Hagrids in Your Building? How Are You Helping Them?

At first glance, it would seem that Hagrid has all the makings of a great teacher. He is willing to take creative risks. He has a deep and passionate knowledge of his content area. And most importantly, he cares about his students.

But unfortunately, content knowledge and compassion aren’t enough to guarantee success. There’s a third element — the craft of teaching. This is that blend of the art and science of teaching. This is everything from culture and community you build to the specific instructional strategies and assessments you use. And it’s something Hagrid struggles with from day one.

Let’s look at an example.

Contrast Hagrid’s approach to that of Professor Hooch. In Hooch’s class, students safely practice riding the broom. Each student has the chance to practice at the same time, getting instant feedback from their own experiences. But with Hagrid, one person gets to ride the hippogriff — a student who doesn’t want to volunteer, only to enjoy the ride while the rest of the class has to wait. When Malfoy then challenges this and gets injured, Hagrid loses confidence and students spend the semester messing with flobberworms.

But here’s the thing. Hagrid is humble and teachable. While Trelawny fakes her way through teaching and insults one of the hardest-working students (Hermione) and Slughorn is dangerously playing favorites, Hagrid is willing to grow. And I have a hunch that if you gave him a few more years to hone his craft, he would become one of the best professors at Hogwarts.

And that’s the real tragedy of his story. Hagrid never gets that chance.

I guess it comes down to this. We all start out as Hagrid — bumbling our way around in the beginning, making huge mistakes and becoming risk-averse. Teaching is hard. It takes years to refine your craft. But if you have the heart of Hagrid, you’ll grow and become a great teacher.

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Five Ways to Support the Hagrids in Your Building

Every school has at least one “Hagrid” in the building. This is someone who is kind and caring and who knows a ton about the subject matter. But this same teacher is struggling with the art and science of being a teacher. So, what do we do to help this teacher grow?

  1. Be vulnerable. Share your mistakes. One of the things I love about Jon Harper’s My Bad podcast is that we get to see firsthand how some of the greatest teachers around have made huge mistakes.
  2. Mentor new teachers. Imagine what would have happened if Professor Sprout had mentored Hagrid. What kinds of preventative classroom management advice could she have given him? What would have happened if Sprout had stood aside Hagrid on the first day of class as a co-teacher and a coach?
  3. Model creative risk-taking. Hagrid makes a huge mistake by taking the wrong kind of creative risk. But I wonder what would have happened if he had seen safe creative risk-taking around him.
  4. Partner with teacher colleges. There are a lot of programs offering a fast-track for future teachers. While some of them have had limited success, many of the teachers still feel woefully unprepared as educators. Hagrid would have been a better teacher if he had been in a classroom management class or had spent a semester in a practicum. However, it’s also important that universities build partnerships with schools. We, at the university level, need a better picture of the context of schools. My dream is to someday co-create an innovation lab school with a local school district.
  5. Personalized professional development. Hagrid doesn’t need the same thing as Snape or McGonagall. But too often, a newer struggling teacher experiences the same professional development as other teachers in the building. If we want these teachers to grow, they need to have targetted, practical, and personalized learning to help them with their craft.

So, what were some of your “Hagrid moments” in your first few years of teaching? How did you recover from it? Leave your comments below or on the video.

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This post is also available on my Creative Classroom podcast. If you’re someone who enjoys listening to podcasts on the way to work, this might be a great way to “read” my blog. (Note: if you enjoy the podcast, please feel free to leave a review on iTunes or Google Play). You can also listen to it below:

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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One response

  1. Hi John,
    First off, I would like to say you have a gift for creatively weaving great story-telling into practical advice. I was drawn in a soon as I read the blog post title. My initial reaction after watching your vlog was, “hmmm… yea, who are the Hagrids in my school?” I was all ready to put a magnifying glass to others, and then, I caught myself. Even though I would be considered a “seasoned” teacher, I could very well be classified as “Hagrid-ish” (pretty sure that is not a word, but I’ll go with it). I still have so much to learn, my classroom management is not, ahem, always the best, of course, I’m not throwing students into dangerous situations either, and I have a heart for my students. I enjoy finding creative ways to help them grasp concepts. I love to see the pride that beams from their face when they finally get that a-ha moment.
    I completely agree with the whole fast-tracking teacher process and the issues that can arise from this method. Way back when, that was actually how I started my career. The whole 20:1 class size reduction was in full swing, and I went straight into my own classroom without completing that last right of passage known as student teaching. Those poor 1st graders I had that year. It’s a good thing they were smart.
    I think your idea to co-create and innovation lab school is fantastic! Whether intentional or not, I believe you may have coined a new phrase for teaching mistakes in general, “Well, that was a Hagrid move.” Love it and thank you for sharing

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